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I saw this phrase in a book. The whole sentence is:

Sergey was exuberant, mercurial, strongly opinionated, and able to leap intellectual chasms in a single bound.

I have no clue as to what that the meaning of that phrase is...

  • What part of "to leap intellectual chasms in a single bound" do you need help with? – Kris May 29 '18 at 12:50
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This is patterned on the Superman line, "Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound." The ability to leap a chasm (gap) means the ability to get past an obstacle. Here, the obstacle is mental, intellectual -- so it means, presumably, to be able to solve a difficult mental problem or reach a difficult level of intellectual comprehension. In short, Sergey was exuberant, mercurial, strongly opinionated, and capable of great intellectual feats. Then again, there is the possibility that the author is having Sergey leap past the reasonable constraints of logic; if what follows shows him reaching irrational conclusions or basing things on faith, the latter reading is more likely.

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“Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.”

The phrase able to ……… in a single bound or even in a single bound alone is a cultural reference to the popular DC Comics superhero Superman, created in 1933.

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Source

The original Superman wasn’t able to fly:

When they started work on the series, Superman could only leap from place to place (hence “able to leap tall buildings in a single bound” in the opening). But they deemed it as ”silly looking” after seeing it animated and decided to have him fly instead. — Superman: The Man of Steel Mythology, 470.

An intellectual chasm is a metaphorically widened intellectual gap, a term usually denoting a disparity in different theoretical approaches to a problem. Alternatively, an intellectual leap can mean a brilliant insight or negatively, jumping to a conclusion unwarranted by available evidence. How the author values leaping intellectual chasms would depend on further context.

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Bound: a quick, long jump.

Chasm: a very deep, narrow opening in rock, ice, or the ground.

It means that Sergey was very smart, he could tackle intellectually challenging problems which you cannot tackle in small steps.

Think of the saying:

  • There is nothing more dangerous than to leap a chasm in two jumps.

  • Don't be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated. You can't cross a chasm in two small jumps.

  • The most dangerous thing in the world is to try to leap a chasm in two jumps.

This is often attributed to David Lloyd George, at least for popularising the saying, but there have been many other theories circulating about its origin. See also this article which finds a significantly earlier usage in 1873:

In 1873 a writer in the “Chicago Times” of Illinois expressed great skepticism about the plans of a duo who said that they hoped to travel from the United States to Europe in a balloon. The columnist used a simile with a stag to highlight the unlikely nature of the enterprise:

“Perhaps they will conclude to stay in Europe—perhaps half way there, like the unfortunate stag who tried to cross a deep chasm in two jumps.”

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